by: T.E. Cowell
“It’s sad, the way some of us live our lives, struggling just to get by day after day…”
Sunday I get drunk because Monday’s the start of yet another work week and just thinking about that fact makes me want to scream or cry or punch something. When I’m drunk, I’m able to momentarily forget about Monday’s impending approach and everything is temporarily good or as close to good as I seem able to make it, which is good enough, I guess. Drunk, I no longer want to scream or cry or punch something quite as badly as before. Soon enough though, too soon, it seems, I’m in bed, dead-tired with a dizzy head. I pass out and wake up to the early morning light of a brand-new day coming through my bedroom window and feel a familiar sense of disappointment when I realize what day it is.
I’m pathetic. Utterly useless. Disgraceful and downright laughable. I’m right back where I started, right back where I’ve always been. Drinking’s nice, sure, but it isn’t a viable solution to my problems. It doesn’t fix things. It only distorts them. Drinking may relieve stress, but at the same time, it contributes to more stress in the long run. When I wake up after getting drunk I’m right back where I started, just as stressed as before if not a little more so. All the same, I’m not about to give up drinking. It’s something I can rely on, a habit I’ve formed over the years. It’s hard to break habits. It takes willpower. I don’t have much willpower. Every day after work I look forward to having a beer, sometimes two, maybe more. I’m weak and I don’t pretend not to be. I can’t face this thing called “life” head-on or in other words, sober. It’s as simple as that.
Judging from the quality of light coming through my bedroom window, I’m guessing it’s around seven-thirty at the latest. It’s my normal waking time, more or less. At least I slept well I think, if you can call it sleep. My body feels light and strong and my mind is clear. My eyes don’t feel heavy at all. Sometimes when I drink as much as I did last night, I sleep like shit.
I release a sigh before rolling out of bed. I use the bathroom, make coffee, eat something, and make a sandwich for lunch. I put on my work clothes, leave the apartment, get in my car, start the engine and take off. The routine of my life is killing me. Dulling my mind. Crushing my spirit. Every day is agonizingly similar. I know it’s the same story for a lot of people, but knowing this doesn’t make me feel any better; if anything, it makes me feel worse. It’s sad, the way we live our lives, struggling just to get by day after day. Damn near every day I feel anxious, like there’s something I should be doing that I’m not doing, something I have no clue about except for the fact that it exists.
The road to town is wet from the previous night’s rain, heavy with a silver-blue shine. The clouds in the sky hang low and dark everywhere I turn. The weather matches my mood perfectly. It’s amazing how often the weather seems to do that. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State. It rains a lot here.
Passing by the high school, I remember that I’m running low on my anti-depressants. I have maybe two pills left in the bottle. Something like that. They’re in my lunch bag laying flat on the car’s passenger seat, but there’s no reason to get them out now and have a look. I glance at the time on the dash and I figure I have enough time to make a quick stop at the drugstore. Better to get it over with now, I reason.
I pass the courthouse, a thrift store, a bank, a vegetarian restaurant, one of the town’s two markets, and then make a right at the stop sign and find an open parking spot in front of the drugstore. One of the best things about living in a small town as far as I’m concerned is that parking’s hardly ever a hassle. In the summer it can be, thanks to all the tourists, but the winter’s are another story. I prefer the winter’s for this reason. The tourists just get in the way.
I turn off the car’s engine, get out of my car, enter the drugstore and walk up to the drop-off window. I wait for one of the women behind the counter to notice me. They both have their backs to me and they’re putting pill bottles into plastic bags. I think of clearing my voice to try and get their attention, but because I’m simply not that kind of person, I don’t. Maybe if I was really desperate I’d do it. Maybe I’d even shout. But I’m not desperate. If I’m a few minutes late to work, I’m a few minutes late to work. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ve been late by a few minutes before and nothing happened. Didn’t even hear a peep from my supervisor. So really I shouldn’t be in a hurry. I should try and relax. Better for my blood pressure and who knows what else. Animals with the slowest metabolisms live the longest lives, I heard somewhere. If that’s the case, then I should slow down too, right?
I stand before the drop-off window for thirty or so seconds, and still the two women don’t seem to know I’m waiting on them. It begins to get to me, to test my patience. What am I, invisible? Again, I think of clearing my voice, as this is getting somewhat ridiculous. But again I do no such thing.
Instead I look on the counter for a bell. No luck. If there were a bell I think I’d use it right about now. Ding! Ding! That would surely get their attention.
The women continue stuffing pill bottles into bags. Drugs, so many drugs. I stare at their backs as if by doing so I can get their attention but they continue going on with their duties.
I stare at the women for another thirty seconds or so before deciding finally to rap on the counter with my knuckle. The instant I do this, both women turn around gracelessly, their movements twitchy like a bird’s. Clearly I’ve startled them. One of them says, “Oh! I’m sorry. Didn’t see you there.” The other goes back to stuffing more pills into bags.
“It’s alright,” I say.
The vocal woman comes over to me, asks how she can help. I tell her how. She’s helped me many times before and always for the same thing. You’d think by now she’d remember me and know exactly what I’m after, but no. Or maybe she does know what I’m after but for some reason likes to ask me every time how she can help. I don’t know.
She consults a computer, types, looks back at me, and asks for my date of birth. I tell her and she consults the computer some more, typing rapidly before looking back at me and saying, “Okay. We’ll have it ready for you in a few hours.”
I thank her and she smiles. At least, I think it’s a smile. The woman’s bone-skinny and has a face that’s clearly seen better days. She can’t be that old, maybe in her late thirties or early forties, but clearly she’s gone through some rough patches in her day. Maybe she’s still in a rough patch. I wonder what drugs she’s on. I wonder if I should be on more drugs than I’m currently on, like, say, anti-anxiety meds. I could probably benefit from those. I leave the drugstore, get back in my car, drive to work and somehow manage to get there only a few minutes late.